Editor’s note: Sam and Aili Lin have been involved in full-time ministry in China, but in 2020, found themselves displaced due to COVID-19. They are in the U.S. for the time being (Sam is Singaporean-American, while Aili grew up in China), and have spent the last year-and-a-half working with international students.
They spoke with us earlier this year about evangelism and international student ministry. Today, they talk about their experiences with anti-Asian racism in the last year, and share a personal story of how their new home was rolled immediately after they moved in. They also shared how, in the midst of their anger and confusion about the incident, they powerfully experienced love from those around them.
Details and names have been changed to obscure Sam and Aili’s identity, and this interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.
China Partnership: As a Chinese-American, what does a meaningful interaction with the American church look like?
Sam: We have had tons of these conversations these past year—racism is a huge topic. It’s easy to just say, “I’m sorry that happened to you.” (This is the same with us and with other minority cultures. It’s very easy to say, “I feel bad about what happened to y’all.”) But are we willing to say, “Tell me about your culture. What is good about it? What has been attacked in it?” It communicates love if you go one step further and try to understand where someone else is coming from.
Would You Pray With Us Today?
Say someone is mad about coronavirus. That person has something going on [inside himself] to make him mad. Instead of just attacking and condemning, we feel loved if someone comes along and says, “Tell me what is going on. What are you doing? What are you feeling?” People attack Asians, maybe because they lost their job because of COVID and have no money and their family is struggling. Of course they are going to be mad because this virus, that they believe came out of China, is affecting their lives. Let me hear them and be empathetic, as opposed to quickly condemning. Of course, the way they are handling it—we can talk about that, too—is not right.
We have felt most thankful and loved when people take time to hear us, get to know us and our stories, and get to know our culture.
CP: Could you talk about when your house was TP’d?
Sam: We had just moved in, and I didn’t know many people. I have very little to go from and very little evidence. If I knew the neighborhood or who was here, maybe I would have more idea of what happened. Immediately I thought, “What do people see right away? They see our Asian faces and the Christian flag I had just put up.” So I thought, “Maybe it’s one of those things.”
Our first reaction was to be mad and angry. But thankfully, by the Holy Spirit’s grace, he softened my heart. I began to think, “It’s probably just some high schoolers.” We reported it to the police, thinking maybe there was a string of TPing going on. But the police officer said, “Nope, you’re the only one.” The officer and I laughed, though, because we both said we had done this when we were in high school. That also softened my heart, because there are so many things that we get mad about, but when we pause and think, we have done the exact same thing.
Then I really thought about how someone had some reason to TP our house. People don’t just do things randomly, for no reason. I would love to hear their reasons. I want to meet the people who TP’d our house—if they have a problem with Asians or with Christianity, I want to hear them out. I’m curious. Thankfully, that was where the Holy Spirit led me, so I wasn’t mad and responding with vengeance.
The other cool thing that happened was that a lot of our neighbors cleaned the mess up for us. We had a meeting, so I did not have time to clean it up. Our neighbor a few doors down, who I had never met, came out with his ladder and cleaned most of it. Other neighbors that we had also never met dropped off some orange rolls. It was a nice welcome to the neighborhood. It’s a funny way to meet your neighbors, but it worked.
At the end of the day, I still don’t know who did this, but I’m fine leaving it to the Lord. One day I do hope to meet them.
Aili: I feel the same way. At first I was scared and angry, thinking that maybe we were being targeted—but we didn’t know what we had done wrong. Maybe we offended someone and they were angry with us, but I don’t know what we did. I felt afraid that maybe they would target us and the kids again.
After the police came, I felt some release, but I was still mad. Sam had a good attitude, and we also prayed about it. That night, I had peace in my heart. I think it was funny, and I need to learn how to forgive others. I felt a big offense, but I need to let it go and forgive them. If they did it on purpose, it shows something is hurt in their hearts. If they did it to be funny because they were bored—well, that’s okay, too.
Sam: Our neighbor also immediately gave us two cameras, which I was very thankful for.
Aili: I also experienced love from our neighbors. A neighbor who is a sister in the church came and took the paper out of the tree. She said to me, “You are welcome here and we love you,” and gave me a hug.
Sam: That is a good example of what I was talking about earlier. Online, a lot of random people who I haven’t met quickly said, “Oh, I’m so sorry, my family would never do such a thing.” That’s nice, but then there were the neighbors who came out with trash bags and ladders to clean everything up. That is harder. Those neighbors took an extra step to move toward us, hear us, and understand us. That is key. That is the love of Christ, and that’s what the world needs.
I appreciate the online comments, but those are easy. Those comments are justifying yourself and making yourself okay. But to go even further is the hard work of racial reconciliation and showing the love of Christ. It takes time and effort.
Sam and Aili Lin currently live in the States, but have been involved in ministry in China for many years. They have been married eight years, and have three children.
FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION
Pray for Christians in America to go above and beyond in seeking to show love and care to their Asian and Asian-American neighbors.